Rory McIlroy bags major Nike deal

Nike has confirmed Rory McIlroy, the top-ranked golfer in the world, will become its latest brand ambassador in a multi-year deal thought to be worth as much as £150m as the sports brand looks to increase its strength in the golf equipment market.

The exact length and value of the deal has not been revealed, although it has been reported to be worth anywhere between £60m to £150m over five to 10 years if he carries on winning major titles.

McIlroy will use Nike’s full range of clubs, balls, clothing and other accessories. He will debut his new kit at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday (17 January), which will see him go head to head against Nike’s other major golfing brand ambassador Tiger Woods – the world number two.

Nike has created a TV ad featuring both McIlroy and Woods jokingly competing on the driving range carrying the strapline: “Nike Golf: no cup is safe” to welcome the new ambassador.

Tim Crow, chief executive of sponsorship agency Synergy, told Marketing Week Nike had just one per cent market share of the golf equipment market before signing Woods, who helped propel that figure to 15 per cent five years after partnering with the brand – a figure that is likely to increase after McIlroy’s signing.

He added the move to sign McIlroy is a “win win win” for the brand – especially because coupling him with Woods in marketing activity could act as an “image makeover” for the once-disgraced golfer that has not featured in high profile Nike campaign in some years. Woods even took a break from golf in 2009 for a number of months after details emerged of his numerous extra-marital “transgressions”.

The move could also give Nike more of an opportunity to explore the expansion of technology used in the sport by leveraging the image of the younger McIlroy, he said.

“Nike needs to back up its product claim and needs the best athletes to do that. The golf marketplace has exploded in the last 10-15 years, with its appeal far wider than it used to be. There’s a lot of room for innovation,” Crow said.

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